February 2015: The New Year brings more variable weather

It was an interesting period over Christmas and New Year with regard to weather and temperature, with many areas experiencing changes from -6C to +8C within 48 hours. A challenge for many ventilation systems, which emphasised the need for regular servicing of ventilation equipment to ensure everything is working as it should be.

A visit to a farm in December reinforced the need for servicing and maintenance. We were doing some training on air movement and organisation of finisher housing. In one building the air was not good; the side inlets were functioning, but the fans were freewheeling. This gave the impression that they were running slowly, not unexpected as it was a bit chilly outside. However, upon turning the fans on, they shot off at full tilt, the air cleared and the temperature plummeted. Needless to say the pigs were not happy.

It appears that there was a problem with the controls. However, a visit from the electrician and all was back to normal. It just goes to show, don’t assume all’s okay; keep checking, monitoring and take action as necessary. This is where remote real-time monitoring adds real value.

The lift in temperature is, however, good news for the outdoor sector, although some land has been looking rather wet. The other good news is that Defra has published its Cross Compliance Guidance for 2015.

GEAC 4 (minimum soil cover) states that claimants must: “Take all reasonable steps to protect soil by having a minimum soil cover unless there is an agronomic justification for not doing so, or where establishing a cover would conflict with requirements under GAEC 5 (management to limit erosion).”

An acceptable agronomic reason being: “Land used for outdoor pig or poultry production or overwintered livestock where it is not reasonably practicable to maintain cover due to the actions of the animals”.

Defra must be given credit for taking this pragmatic and realistic decision, recognising the difficulty in keeping cover.

But, while this is very useful, it shouldn’t be seen as a reason not to try to maintain cover. Instead, it needs to be seen as a fall back. We’re going to have to keep an eye on this one.

And, it’s back to IPPC, or as it is now, IED Brefs. The conclusions of our efforts in Seville as reported last month are not with us yet, so there’s still an air of caution. Before pig and poultry rearing is put to bed, work is commencing on the slaughterhouse and animal by-products Bref, with larger abattoirs and rendering plants also needing a permit.

We’ll be providing support to the processor sector on this one, using some of the lessons learnt. It’s important that we find a workable solution for the next stage in the chain, in order to maintain an outlet for all the pigs being produced and reward that effort.

Millers and compounders are working on the feed manufacturing and processing Bref, so that covers the front end. We’ve all this technology to make our lives better, but all we seem to do is replace physical toil and hardship with mental anguish.

> Nigel Penlington joined BPEX in 2004 and is the organisation’s environment programme manager. He specialises in environmental issues affecting the UK pig industry and production technology

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